Beets by Nate hereford
I am an obsessive watcher of Mind of a Chef, an avid reader of high-end cookbooks, and quite possibly a restaurant groupie. I'd rather sit at the Chef's Counter in a restaurant than the first row of a Cardinal's game. With that obsession comes a new addition to Whiskey And Soba: chef recipes. The best seat in town is at Niche's counter, watching executive chef Nate Hereford and his team effortlessly create edible art. Hereford's passion for continuous improvement and working with local ingredients is infectious. He's inspired me to forage for mushrooms around my yard, which has only resulted in a psychedelic experience once.
A few weeks back, after enjoying a beautiful beet dish, I told him how hard it is for me to think of vegetarian recipes outside of your typical roasted/sautéed variety—that's when it hit me. Let's have the chef of St. Louis' James Beard winning restaurant create recipes using local and seasonal ingredients to help everyone cook better.
Hereford's first dish is beets with roasted maitake mushrooms, miso yogurt, candied pecans, oregano, and a quick spruce (rosemary for the home cooks) pan sauce. It may look complicated, but any decent home cook will be able to pull this off flawlessly.
"It's January, it's cold out, I wanted something vibrant but speaking to the season. Here we have beets, a great winter ingredient that grow really well around here in winter, as well as locally cultivated maitake (Hen of the Woods) mushrooms. I thought the earthy flavors of the two things would go really well together."
Something that struck me from my first meal at Niche was the huge variation of texture in every dish. "You want texture, but you want to balance the textures in every bite. The mushrooms have one texture, the two different kinds of beets have two different textures. When I construct a dish, I want to make sure I'm really focusing on the element you’re focusing on. The pecans are going to add sweetness as well as crunch, the yogurt gives you a creaminess, and the sauce on the plate ties it all together with acid. The oregano gives a background herbal note, refreshing your palate as you eat. Typically, when we think of dishes and start to construct ideas, we try to follow that pattern. We find that it allows constant excitement when you’re eating a dish. You’re always finding new flavors, new textures, cleansing your palate."
miso yogurt, mushrooms
by Nate Hereford
Beets with Miso Yogurt, Mushrooms
YIELD: 6 | PREP: 1 HOUR | ACTIVE: 10 MINUTES | TOTAL: 1 HOUR AND 10 MINUTES
12 red beets
2 C maple syrup
2 C white distilled vinegar.
2 C water
1 C white miso
1 C greek yogurt
1/2 C whipped cream
1 C pecans
2 egg whites
1 C sugar
Hen of the Woods mushrooms
1 rosemary sprig
2 T white distilled vinegar
Preheat oven to 300.
Toss beets with just enough oil to cover, salt, then wrap beets in foil. Bake until tender, checking every 30 minutes. A knife should slide in easily. It should take roughly 1 hour. Once cool enough to handle, peel the beets (gloves are advised to avoid stained hands). Once peeled, set 3 aside. Using a mandoline, thinly slice beets about 1/16 of an inch (if using a knife, do your best to cut them very thinly). Set aside.
Dice the remaining 9 beets into assorted organic shapes. Whatever your heart desires.
Combine the maple syrup and the vinegar in a pan. Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down and slowly reduce by about 1/2. Once brought down by 1/2, add the water, stirring to combine. Slowly reduce by 1/2 again. It should taste sweet and acidic. Brush on to or spoon over larger beet chunks.
Whip the cream with a mixer. Blend miso and yogurt until a smooth puree is formed. Place in a mixing bowl and fold in whipped cream. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
Whipped cream is optional if you’re short on time or lazy.
Whisk eggs whites with the sugar and salt until frothy. Add in pecans. Place on a sheet tray and bake at 325, stirring every 5 minutes until done (about 30 minutes).
Tear the Hen of the Woods mushrooms into chunks and roast in a hot pan with canola oil. Finish with butter, basting until butter is browned. Season with salt.
Remove mushrooms from the pan and lower heat. Add rosemary sprig to pan and briefly cook to bring out aromatics. Deglaze pan with white distilled vinegar. Pour sauce in small bowl and set aside.
Plate at your heart’s content. To do it like Nate, spoon a dollop of miso yogurt on the plate, then use the back of the spoon to make a swoosh. Place the larger beet chunks on the miso. In between the beets, place the mushroom chunks and pecans. Place oregano in 2-3 places. Lay thinly sliced beets on top, as seen below. Drizzle with the rosemary sauce to finish.